Header: Double-page spread in the Footprints Fort Wayne report about infant mortality, sponsored by Parkview Health
33.2% and 55.7%.
Numbers don’t lie; they are champion truth-tellers and are as inevitable as the sun. From 2013 to 2017 in Allen County, African-American births accounted for only 15.9% of live births, but 33.2% of the deaths.
A lack of prenatal care contributes to infant mortality. In Allen County, most babies are dying because they are being born too soon. According to 2013-2015 data, 55.7% of 46806 zip code moms did not receive prenatal care.
In his State of the State address on January 19, 2019, Governor Eric Holcomb reiterated his commitment to making Indiana the “best state in the Midwest” for infant mortality by 2024. Through collaboration and commitment to moms, babies, and families, Allen County is prepared to lead this effort.
Infant mortality is a problem too daunting and complex for any one person or organization to solve alone. It will take the best efforts of many, working in coordination, to move the needle. Through collective impact and aligning our efforts, Allen County is poised to tackle the problem head-on.
In the fall of 2017, community leaders from Oakland, Cincinnati, and Indianapolis were invited to a forum in Fort Wayne to share what their communities were doing to impact infant mortality. Feedback indicated that the Cincinnati model resonated with Fort Wayne residents. Since then a team has been partnering with nonprofit Cradle Cincinnati to determine how some of their strategies could be adapted for our city.
Throughout 2018, a small team worked on assessing data and collecting community input. In September, an advisory council was formed and the initiative, Footprints Fort Wayne, was officially born. The council of multi-disciplinary professionals and community members reviewed data, discussed current system-wide capabilities, and reviewed factors affecting the community and what was within their scope to meaningfully improve. To date, 22 organizations have pledged to partner in the Footprints Fort Wayne initiative. As part of that pledge, the organizations have adopted a set of principles and have agreed to work together, be equitable, co-create solutions with families, improve systems, constantly communicate and collectively grow their knowledge.
At the conclusion of the first advisory council meeting, three ideas rose to the top: safe sleep, early prenatal care, and equity. A common agenda was formed around these three focus areas. We believe that if all organizations and residents work together to ensure that babies always sleep in a safe environment and women receive early and regular prenatal care, the infant mortality rate will drop. The third principle, equity, speaks to the alarming racial disparity in infant mortality. We believe that our attention and interventions need to concentrate on the African-American population and southeast Fort Wayne, which are unjustly affected.
On Jan. 29, 2019, at The Summit campus at 1025 Rudisill Blvd., the advisory council met again to review and discuss ideas for interventions submitted by the group. The ideas were a mix of evidence-based interventions that have worked in other communities and innovative, creative ideas for which Fort Wayne could serve as a pioneer. A strategic plan will be developed based on feedback from this process.
We Are Better Together
Footprints Fort Wayne has a website in development. When launched, it will be a hub to share data, ideas, and progress. The website will be a means to grow our knowledge and communicate so that ideas can be shared broadly. It will also serve as a platform to highlight resources and efforts currently underway, such as the St. Joseph Community Health Foundation Prenatal Resource Directory which lists local, free and low-cost resources, available at SJCHF.org/PICResources and SJCHF.org/Directories.
An essential component of the initiative is ensuring that the voices, wisdom and experience of community members are part of the solution. Understanding residents’ experiences in utilizing resources, accessing healthcare and going about the daily business of parenting will be key to solving the problem. Individuals who have an interest in advocating on behalf of the community and would like to join the advisory council are encouraged to email Erin.Norton@parkview.com.
The council’s goal is to collaboratively rally behind a single, highly-focused agenda. By concentrating energy and resources on the focus areas most likely to improve outcomes, more Fort Wayne babies will be able to celebrate their first birthday.
This story was slightly modified from an article provided by Erin Norton, RN, BSN, MBA, Director of Community Outreach Parkview Women’s and Children’s Service Line.